Bring women to the centre of peace-building

Countries do themselves no favours by excluding women

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The world today is facing a horrendous range of conflicts. We are seeing military coups, seizures of land by force, and explosion of rivalries into military action. We witness competition for resources tearing countries and nations apart. We see men, women and children enlisted to join battles they did not create, cutting lives short and leaving too many behind in the march of human progress.

Conflict leaves its ravages across all societies, all generations and all people. However, it is women and girls who are hardest hit by its impact. From disrupting education to early forced marriage, sexual and gender-based violence, loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, and deprivations of shelter, sanitation, and dignified conditions – the advancement of women is too often curtailed by the scourge of violence and conflict, in every region of the world.

Yet it is also women who have the most untapped potential to bring peace. In conflict settings around the world, women’s participation in conflict resolution can make a difference before, during and after conflict. However, women continue to be excluded, especially from formal peace processes, and the world is worse off for this needless marginalisation.

We will continue to support women to make lasting marks in the most challenged parts of the world

The international community is already committed to addressing this. Indeed, 22 years ago, the UN Security Council passed a landmark resolution intended to bring women front and centre in peace-building processes. Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, was intended to tap the potential of women to reduce both the incidence and impact of war, and support conflict prevention and recovery that can be inclusive, sustained and effective.

President Sheikh Mohamed meets a delegation of the Military and Peacekeeping personel, in Abu Dhabi on April 8, 2019.

More than two decades on, progress on this agenda is not where it needs to be, and many peace processes are stalled. Efforts to ensure inclusive peace are now more important than ever but multiple barriers to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation remain. Only 19 per cent of conflict parties’ delegations in peace processes supported by the UN were women in 2021. Related, only eight out of 25 peace agreements reached globally in 2021 included provisions referencing women, girls and gender.

Countries do themselves no favours by excluding women in this way. While on mission in the UAE last month, I met with 140 women cadets from Africa, Asia, and the Arab region at the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Women, Peace and Security Initiative. I have also met Ukrainian women peacebuilders taking refuge in Moldova, Colombian women leading the implementation of their country’s Peace Agreement, Afghan women who continue to pursue justice and peace for their homeland, and countless more women peacebuilders during my tenure at UN Women. In each instance, I have been impressed by women peacebuilders’ unshakable commitment and tireless efforts to take an active role in the journey from conflict to inclusive, sustainable peace.

It is thus high time that the international community increase women's participation in peace and recovery efforts, including by adopting and implementing national action plans to further integrate women in peace and security efforts, and investing in peace, justice, and economic inclusion. I had the honour of reinforcing this call during the opening session of the Abu Dhabi Women, Peace and Security Conference – the second of the kind in the Arab region. I was impressed by the level of engagement and investment in this agenda, in the UAE and indeed around the world. Yet accelerated progress is needed, as we seek to engage women at all levels to begin to transform conflicts towards peace.

At the global level, an upcoming opportunity for countries to highlight their advances in engaging women peace builders, is the annual open debate of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace, and Security – to be held this October at UN Headquarters in New York. Previous years have helped bring global attention to aspects such as the importance of women's meaningful participation in peace processes and conflict related sexual violence. Now, with the advent of the Generation Equality Forum Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, momentum is high for member states, civil society organisations, and the private sector to show concrete progress on their commitments by becoming Compact signatories. Generation Equality holds our common aspiration for a more equal future, and by bringing together multi-stakeholder partners can unleash the greatest potential.

The world may be at a high point for conflict, while women’s formal engagement in peace processes continues to be low. We can only tackle these issues if we tackle them together. We cannot remedy the world’s tragic patterns of conflict without women’s inclusion in peacebuilding at every level: community and national, formal and informal.

On our side, at UN Women, we will continue to support the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325, and to support peace-building processes that are inclusive and sustainable, as a means of supporting UN member states and partners to bring women to the centre of peace-building. We know we are not alone, and that others will continue to join the effort. In so doing, we will continue to support women to make lasting marks in the most challenged parts of the world – so we can be sure that where peace is achieved, it will be sustained.

Published: October 18, 2022, 9:00 AM